RISING TEMPERATURES AND SPRING SNOWMELT PROMPTS WATER SAFETY WARNING
PG&E and State Parks Urge Water Recreationists to use Caution in and near Water


Contact:  Gloria Sandoval, PIO
(916) 651-5692

May 16, 2014


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Water enthusiasts should take serious precautions against cold temperatures and swift currents when in or near water this spring.

Despite this year’s below-normal snowfall, the spring snowmelt can still result in swift and cold river flows that can create treacherous conditions for all recreationists – waders, swimmers, paddlers, boaters, anglers, and even hikers cooling off at the water’s edge. Lower water levels can also expose hazards or make them closer to the surface.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), California State Parks and its Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) caution that even though the water content of California’s mountain snowpack is below normal, the snowpack is rapidly melting as mid-spring temperatures continue to rise. As warmer weather and longer days speed up melting snow in mountainous regions, water temperatures will continue to drop and flows can change suddenly in waterways and reservoirs.

“We ask those enjoying the outdoors to be careful near mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs,” said Randy Livingston, PG&E’s Vice President of Power Generation. “Water flows will fluctuate with the warming and cooling of the day so always be prepared for a change in conditions.”

“Never get too comfortable around water when recreating, no matter how low the levels are,” said Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.), Director of California State Parks. “This year we are asking water enthusiasts to adjust with water-related activities to the drought conditions. Water conditions in some waterways are low enough to make for hazardous boating. It is also critical for everyone in or around the water to wear life jackets at all times, no matter if water levels are low.”

“Spring is a wonderful time to recreate in California’s waterways,” said Colonel Christopher C. Conlin, USMC (Ret), DBW’s Deputy Director. “But please read the safety tips in this water safety warning because making a mistake could threaten the life of a loved one.” 

Water safety tips:

Know the Water

  • Sudden immersion in cold water can stimulate the “gasp reflex,” causing an involuntary inhalation of air or water. It can even trigger cardiac arrest, temporary paralysis, hypothermia and drowning. When faced with swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed.
  • Cold water entering the ear canal can cause vertigo and disorientation. This may confuse swimmers, causing them to venture deeper into the water.
  • Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of canals and flumes, which are very dangerous due to slippery sides and fast moving water.
  • Lower lakes and rivers can expose hazards like rocks and trees, or make them closer to the surface.

Know your Limits

  • Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool – people tire more quickly and can get into trouble.
  • Cold water causes impairment leading to fatalities. It reduces body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air does at the same temperature.
  • Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous. Guided trips for inexperienced paddlers are recommended.

Wear a Life Jacket

  • Conditions change quickly in open water and even the best swimmers can misjudge the water and their skills when boating or swimming. Wearing a life jacket can increase survival time.
  • A life jacket can provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia and keep you afloat until someone else can rescue you.

Parental Supervision

  • Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults.
  • Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.

Know the Law

  • Every child under 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a moving vessel that is 26 feet or less in length.
  • A Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be carried for each person on board a boat. This includes rigid or inflatable paddlecraft.
  • Every person on board a personal watercraft (popularly known as “jet skis”) and any person being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • It is against the law to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. You can be arrested even when your BAC is less than 0.08 percent if conditions are deemed to be unsafe.

About DBW
DBW enhances public access to California’s waterways and promotes on-the-water safety to California’s more than four million motorized and non-motorized boaters through programs funded by vessel registration fees, boating fuel tax dollars and boating facility construction loan payments. For more information, visit www.dbw.parks.ca.gov. Click here to view this year’s boating season media kit.

About PG&E
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and http://www.pge.com/about/newsroom/.  For more information on public safety related to our hydro please call PG&E’s Hydro Safety Line (415) 973-SAFE. Or visit our recreation website at www.pge.com/recreation

About California State Parks
California State Parks manages 278 parks units in a system that contains 1.5 million acres, 300 miles of the California coastline, 640 miles of lakefront and more than 300 miles of rivers. More than 65-million people visited State Parks in 2010. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Story opportunities on water safety can be scheduled with DBW.

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